Embodied Nonduality

In this paper I describe an approach to embodied nonduality called the Realization Process.  By embodied, I do not mean just the ability to walk around in our daily life, recognizing nonduality.  I mean the nondual transparency of the body itself.  This is anexperience (I will talk more about this word “experience” later in the paper) that we are made of transparent, space-like presence, that this is our basic or true nature, and that everything that we perceive around us is also made of transparent, space-like presence.

Embodied Nonduality

About Judith Blackstone

Judith Blackstone is a nondual teacher, psychotherapist, and founding director of Nonduality Institute in New York City. She developed the Realization Process, a method of embodied nondual realization. She is author of Belonging Here, The Enlightenment Process, The Intimate Life and The Empathic Ground. An audio series of the Realization Process is available from Sounds True. For information on Judith’s teaching itinerary, visit www.realizationcenter.com.

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7 Responses to Embodied Nonduality

  1. Ken Bradford says:

    How fortunate we are that there are so many Dharma doors available these days!

    Judith Blackstone’s article presents a couple of worthy ones. To clarify in more common terms for those unfamiliar with the rangtong and shentong distinction: the goal of the Buddhist sutras in general is the recognition of the inherent empty-openness of self and every thing, including sensory experiences, ie. rangtong. This recognition typically dawns by engaging a meditative process working with the mind to calm (shamatha) the compulsive thinking that construes a solid sense of self and world, so to inquire into and recognize (vipashyana) the insubstantial and dreamlike nature of it all. A pitfall of this approach, as Judith notes, is a subtle conceptual clinging to no-thingness/distancing from the flux of existence. In this way, the mind sneakily re-establishes a non-dreamlike position of “emptiness” to be protected. Ie, following a glimpse of empty-openness, dualistic vision reasserts itself.

    In contrast, Buddhist Tantras engage more active meditative processes (such as her Realization Process) with the energetic nature of experience, ie. shentong. Rather than imaged as a quiet, seated, inward-looking Buddha, here we have dynamic, blissful, fierce, and other high-octane images portraying a more muscular embodiment of awakened mind. Allowing for the full play of emotional-sensory liveliness, including the impact of traumas on our psyches, quickens the path toward total realization-freedom. However, a pitfall of this vehicle is that one can get intoxicated by/identify with the emotio-sensational flows of energy, eg. “getting-off” on them, and so lose touch with the inherent no-thingness of bodily experiencing. Ie, following a release of holding/breaking-openness, dualistic vision subtly re-insinuates itself.

    The excellent dzogchen of Longchenpa, which Judith quotes, refers to a still more inclusive, subtle, and even quicker path. Dzogchen recognizes from the very beginning that the empty essence of self and world always has as its inherent nature a cognizant liveliness. These are not seen as separate dimensions or paths, but as a non-dual, uninterrupted, and unerring dreamlike dynamism, beyond both any kind of meditative attainment or any kind of distraction. Still, the higher the path, the harder the ground: the pitfalls of dzogchen include BOTH of those belonging to sutra and tantra…

    • Hi Ken,
      Thank you for this elucidation of rangtong and shentong. My only disagreement with what you have said is that the Realization Process – the nondual approach that I teach – is not a tantric path in the sense of working with energy. Rather it uncovers a more subtle dimension than energy: a stillness and transparency that co-exists with and pervades the movement of life. In my view, the pitfall of this approach (attuning directly to all-pervasive transparency) is that one could imagine it as something separate from oneself, for example, as “a field” that we “set up.” However, when we open our entire body and being to this dimension, it is our actual nature, not something in any way separate from ourselves. Energy moves through this boundless transparency, but in this approach, the movement of energy is just a consequence of realizing our basic nature: pervasive, motionless, unified, sentient (self-knowing) transparency.

  2. Peter Wrycza says:

    I enjoyed Judith’s gentle account of the Rangtong and Shentong approaches and her reminder of the importance of an embodied awakening. Without a lot of ‘Ranting’ and ‘Shunting’, she reminds us that such concepts invariably arise from experience. Sometimes, I feel I would like to know more about the evolution of Judith’s experience, as her interesting approach clearly arise from her experience. And I sense that would be an interesting and helpful story….

    • Thank you, Peter. Bits of my personal story are scattered throughout my books. And you are right, everything I teach has emerged from my own path, and from my interactions with people who have come to practice with me.

  3. Peter Wrycza says:

    Further reflection on the distinctions explored in Judith’s article touched some old questions.

    In my work exploring the life patterns and deep epistemology of clients with my Re•Patterning approach, I occasionally come across a particularly well-integrated client who is nonetheless somehow stuck. It turns out that the client experiences a subtle state that seems very close to the kind of embodied and awakened state Judith describes in her article.

    Unfortunately, this state is not permanent and there is a subtle attachment to it and a judgement that it is more complete and better than the times where this kind of ‘beingness’ is not present.

    As a result a kind of duality continues with something like ‘my true nature’ present, foregrounded, and preferred to those other times when it isn’t.

    At first, it might appear that the resolution of this duality lies in the preferred half of the two states becoming permanent or dominant, reducing or eliminating times when ‘my true self’ is missing.

    Further reflection and exploration, however, usually suggests that the client has succumbed to a kind of subtle idolatry, enamored of a clear consciousness, which was become an object.

    Resolution generally means recognizing that that which was taken to be self is just half a coin, and the true nature of the client must somehow transcend, include, and be prior to both states.

    It seems to me that the more utterly transcendent and the more delightfully immanent portals/pathways might be unhelpfully contrasted and set in opposition. We might have our biases and preferences but Rangtong and Shentong rather than pointing to contrasting approaches invite a recognition of something complimentary in the unfolding.

    I think this is honored in the traditions of Bali where I live and in India in the punctuation of both full and dark moons. Both fullness and emptiness are facets of that which is. Wholeness moves in-between. I have found that inclusiveness helpful.

    • Yes, I certainly agree that both rangtong and shentong are necessary aspects of the teaching, helpful at different times for different people, and work as a kind of check on each other. However, I align more with shentong because I have seen so many people express that they are “directly knowing” when they seem to be only open from the “neck up.” The are knowing what’s out there, but they have not realized themselves as the transparency.
      That said, I think that any religious or spiritual teaching has pitfalls, idolatry definitely being high on the list. Also, the fleeting beginnings of realization are well known. Once we open to transparency throughout our whole core, it is no longer temporary – it is an actual transformation of our being/knowing/doing and does not need to be in any way held or focused on. Then fullness and emptiness are simultaneous.

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